Save Our Teen Drivers

Advocating for driver's education changes. Educating the public on the problem. Finding a solution that saves lives.

Posts Tagged ‘car crash’

Is showing off worth your life?

Posted by lapearce on February 17, 2010

Today I saw my second dead body. The first was in a small, mining town called Trona California. The road turned left, a driver went straight and was ejected from the car. I’m fairly certain it was a drunk driving crash. The second, today, happened when a woman showing her car to a potential buyer hit a tree outside my office at a great amount of speed. She was killed instantly and the interested buyer was injured, luckily he’s going to be OK.

The car was a modified Corvette with a lot of power. The office building is on a curvy road that is popular with test drivers. She didn’t even make it through the first turn. She was obviously showing off and it cost her her life. All because she wanted to impress a potential buyer.

A lot of crashes, especially with younger drivers, happen because the driver is showing off. A lot of people overestimate their driving abilities. When all you do is drive in normal, on-road situations you can’t possibly accurately assess your abilities when you push a car. If all you do is walk, how do you know how fast you can run?

That is why you should never push your car on public streets. There are tracks out there and courses you can take if you want to see what you and your car can do. The benefit of these courses is there typically aren’t any trees or parked cars or buildings right next to them for you to hit. If you lose control you’ll likely get out of it unscathed, this can’t be promised on the open road.

A fatal crash is always tragic. We can never bring back the life that was lost, but we can honor their life by learning from what happened and trying to ensure that we don’t make the same mistakes. Please, be safe on the road today, and save the fast stuff for the track. Trust me, you probably aren’t as awesome of a driver as you think you are. I’d happily help you see that on a closed course.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Study shows that cell phone laws don’t work

Posted by lapearce on January 29, 2010

You are four times more likely to crash if you are talking on a phone while drive than when you are not. In light of this fact the government came up with a solution: take phones away. Make it illegal and people will stop talking, crashes will drop, people will sing hallelujah! Unfortunately, that isn’t what happened.  The results are in and “surprising”. According to a new study by the Highway Loss Data Institute, an affiliate of the Institute for Highway Safety cell phone bans do not reduce the number of crashes.

“You know that there should be fewer [crashes],” he said. “We were looking for that, and we aren’t seeing that pattern,” said Adrian Lund, president of the Institute.

So does this mean that people are ignoring the bans? Actually, what is surprising about this is that people are not ignoring the bans. Cell phone use in states where it is banned has been cut 41-76 percent. Even though fewer people are chatting, the same number of people are crashing. It is counter-intuitive based on the higher crash risk while on the phone. So have Americans simply ceased to know how to drive? I’m starting to think they have.

There are two big problems with cell phone bans. First, in most states hands-free devices are still legal, but just as dangerous. The danger doesn’t come from holding a phone to your ear, it comes from your brain deciding that the conversation is more important than driving, which takes critical attention away from the more important task at hand: operating a two-ton machine at a high rate of speed. The second problem is that the most dangerous aspects of cell phone use are not illegal. These are: activating your bluetooth, dialing a number, answering the phone, etc etc etc all of which take your eyes off the road longer than the act of talking.

The other aspect is that while cell phone use is down, distractions are still up. GPS, Ipods, Starbucks. All of these items didn’t exist in cars 20 years ago, but now they are all but required. I also feel that people no longer stop to do what should be done when stopped. It was difficult to read a map and drive because the map was three feet across, folded 12 different ways and took a lot of attention. So you stopped to pull the map out and find your way. GPS is not three feet across and folded, but it can still be distracting, especially when you are plugging that address in.

People need to just get their eyes back on the road. Pull over to find your favorite CD or directions to Aunt Betsy’s house. Don’t think that just because you aren’t on the phone that you can’t be distracted.

Posted in Studies | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Carnage in California: why can’t we drive in the rain?

Posted by lapearce on December 8, 2009

This happens about this time every year: Southern California gets its first rain in about eight months, the dirty roads get incredibly slick, and car-capades take effect as people slide around, apparently having forgotten how to drive on wet grounds since it has been so long since the last storm. Monday, Orange County had nearly 500 calls about crashes, compared to less than 150 last Monday when it was dry. Luckily,  no one was killed.

California drivers do deserve some slack when it comes to wet weather driving. First, because it rains so little each rain is like the first rain, and our roads are a lot slicker because a lot more oil has been allowed to accumulate in the road. Second: we often times get a lot of rain fairly quickly and our roads can’t cope with it, which leads to flooding and causes more crashes. Third: because it rains only a handful of times a year many of us don’t bother changing tires for winter, many of us will run on summer tires all year long– maybe not the smartest thing to do, but we do it.

All our excuses can’t forgive the truth of the So Cal roads in December. How I see is that there are two fundamental problem drivers out there: the drivers who drive as if it is dry, and the drivers who drive as if it is icy. When the reckless meet the over cautious you get crashes. Throw into the mix the average driver who has increased caution but not to the point where they are a moving road block and well… the whole thing is a mess.

People need to realize that while rain isn’t the end of the world, they need to adjust their driving for the weather. Whoa your speed down, but also important: leave more space between you and the cars around you and be observant. Traction and visibility are often impaired in the rain. This reduces your chances of seeing danger (adding to reaction time) but you can’t make up that lost time because guess what — your car won’t stop as far or won’t grip to the payment. Que the fender benders and spin outs. Instead of having this outcome, just leave more room! Give yourself a lot more space than you would in dry weather and also be watchful, for the people driving as if it wasn’t raining, the people driving as if the world is ending, and the people who are distracted or aren’t leaving the space they need. If everyone just slowed down a little, rainy roads would be a much better place.

Don’t get me started on So Cal drivers in the snow.

Collage of Car Carnage:

Ferrari spun out:

Driver was seriously injured:

Hey truck, you’re not supposed to be on your roof:

Car was hit by an SUV, causing it to spin into the pole:

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Speeding teen kills family of four in Somona, CA

Posted by lapearce on December 3, 2009

This tragic tale happens far too often. 19 year old Steven Culbertson killed a family of four on Saturday night as he ran a red light in his MINI Cooper at 70-90mph. Speed limit on the road is 55mph. His little car t-boned a Nissan minivan killing the family of four inside as they returned from the airport after a vacation in Hawaii. John and Susan Maloney and their children Aiden (8) and Gracie (5) were killed instantly in the crash, Steven died on Sunday due to his injuries. To add salt to the wounds, two deadbeats decided that since the family was dead they no longer needed their worldly possessions and robbed their house. The couple was arrested yesterday, ironically they were found out when the woman, Amber True, was arrested for driving without a license.

Minivan belonging to the Maloney family after being hit by a speeding teen

Steven had his license suspended for a year when he was 17 due to drunk driving. It is unclear at this point if alcohol was a factor in this crash, but an eye witness says he say him drinking two hours before the fateful crash, which, ironically, happened right down the street from Infineon Raceway, a place where people can go those types of speed legally and safely without having to worry about hitting minivans filled with children.

The MINI driver had aspirations of being a racer, and had taken his car to the track– the only place where one should drive like he was driving on Saturday night. Unfortunately, Steven could not separate track driving from road driving and it lead to his death and the death of four others. He made a big mistake, a mistake that could have implications for your teen.

First off, when ever a crash like this happens, the thing that stands out for everyone is the word teenager. Steven just dropped the credibility of all teen drivers by his mistake. Teens already have really low credibility as drivers due to their inexperience, and their propensity to make bad decisions. Teens do cause more crashes than older drivers, but that doesn’t mean that teens are always at fault for their crashes or that all teens will make the same mistake Steven did.

Secondly, when crashes like this happen the natural reaction of many is “change the laws/road so this doesn’t happen again”. People love blaming the road. The road didn’t do anything, it was just a strip of asphalt that accommodated the perpetrator of the crime. There is always something to blame with the road. There’s a rise in the hill that interferes with visibility, or the speed limit is too high, or there aren’t enough barriers, no matter what the case, the road will be blamed. Then people will look at the laws, and not the driver training laws, they’ll try to restrict teen drivers more. This just puts a band-aid on the problem and doesn’t fix anything.

Third: race car drivers or aspiring race car drivers can have their name tarnished. I’m a HUGE advocate of taking your car to the track. You learn so much about yourself as a driver and the abilities of your car when you push it to the limits. It makes you a better driver. It is also the only safe place to drive your car fast. I find that going to the track takes the need for speed away and that I drive calmer on the road for weeks after a good day on a race track. Most of the race car drivers I know drive very responsibly on the road. I don’t want anyone to look down at people who drive on the track, or keep their children from participating in track days, because of this crash. It is worthwhile and driving fast on the track does not mean you will drive fast on the road.
I really hope that one day we no longer have to read stories like this. I hope that one day better training means that drivers are more responsible on the road. Until that day: be safe, and keep it on the track!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Car crashes: the next global pandemic

Posted by lapearce on November 20, 2009

Ethiopians are 134 times more likely to be killed in a car crash than Englishmen. Even though the country has only 1.5 cars per 1,000 people there is a fatal crash for every 60 cars on the road, compared to one for every 8,000 cars in the Western world. If everyone in Ethiopia had a car, and the life expectancy was 60 years, everyone would be death before they were 60.

That’s a scary thought.

Ethiopia is part of a growing trend of auto fatalities as more and more developing nations are becoming affluent enough to afford cars, but not affluent enough to have good roads, laws, education or well-maintained vehicles. The result is a massacre. Africa’s share of automobile fatalities is three times higher than its share of automobiles, a trend similar across most of the developing world. If nothing is done about the problem, car crashes will be a top three killer worldwide in a decade.

Someone is stepping up to do something about it. The UN’s Road Safety Collaboration is holding its first global conference on traffic safety today and tomorrow. The conference’s goals are:

  • Draw attention to the need for action to address the large and growing global impact of road traffic crashes, in particular in low and middle income countries
  • Review progress on implementation of the World report on road traffic injury prevention and the UN General Assembly resolutions
  • Provide a high-level global multisectoral policy platform to share information and good practices on road safety
  • Propose a number of actions for the future, including a discussion of the resources needed to fulfill these actions

PRI’s The World did a segment today on the conference and the epidemic of fatal car crashes the developing world. It really is tragic. Doctors are constantly trying to save lives in very avoidable crashes. These crashes wouldn’t happen with better roads, more driver’s education and better enforcement of laws. Many crashes happen at the hands of drunk drivers in the developing world as well.

This is a problem that needs to be addressed now. It will only get worse as more people can afford cars in the developing world.

Here is an example of what driving is like in a place without driver’s ed or enforced laws:

For more information please check out My E-shoe Box’s blog post on the problem:

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Connecticut police release video of crash that killed two teens

Posted by lapearce on November 18, 2009


Screen shot of video where one police car is passing the other. Note the speed is 66mph

This is a horrible situation.  On June 13 of this year a police dash cam recorded a crash between another police car and a vehicle with two teens in it. The two cruisers were driving over 70mph in a 40mph zone without lights or sirens and while they were not responding to any call. The officers got to an intersection with a flashing red (to be treated like a stop sign) and flew through it without so much of a blip of the lights or a tap of the brakes. The teen driver, who likely assumed that the approaching cars would stop like they were supposed to or who was unable to judge the distance at that speed, turned in front of one of the police officers and was t-boned.


Ashlie Krakowski and David Servin, both 19 years old, were killed in the crash. Now, six months after the crash, questions are finally being answered and justice is being served. The police officer who hit the teens has been charged with two counts of second degree manslaughter and the other police officer is being investigated as well. I hope he loses his job.

This horrible tragedy reminds us that we never know what may happen on the road. Who would expect an officer in charge of protecting, serving and enforcing laws would blatantly break them and take two lives in the process? How many times do you enter an intersection thinking that the other cars are going to stop like they are supposed to? The road is full of surprises and unexpected events can happen at any time.

My deepest condolences to the families of the young adults killed in the crash. To everyone else: please, be safe and aware out there.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Surprise, surprise: more drivers training reduces crashes

Posted by lapearce on November 18, 2009

Ever read a headline with a statement that is such common sense that you almost wonder why it was written at all? “Exercise makes people healthier” or “Students who do homework excel in school” how about “Teen driver injuries reduced by graduated drivers licensing“.

Graduated drivers licenses are spreading to most states in the Union. The program includes higher amounts of behind-the-wheel training, restrictions on night driving and passengers, higher minimum age for receiving a permit or license and stricter penalties for teens who break laws during the provisional period. The purpose of the programs is a three hit combo of better education, reducing the causes of crashes and incentives to follow the laws. Nation wide, the programs decrease crashes by about 19 percent and actually save states money. Despite this, not all states have GDL requirements.

A study done by the Medical College of Wisconsin’s Injury Research Center in Milwaukee and the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin studied GDL requirements and five years of crash data from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, OThio and Wisconsin. It found that more than 300 deaths and over 21,000 injuries could have been prevented if the states had better GDL programs.

The changes the team feels could have saved these lives  are:

1. Minimum age of 16 years for obtaining a learner’s permit

2. A holding period of at least six months after obtaining a learner permit before applying for intermediate phase

3. At least 30 hours of supervised driving

4. Minimum age of 16.5 years for entering the intermediate phase

5. No unsupervised driving at night after 10 p.m. during the intermediate phase

6. No unsupervised driving during the intermediate phase with more than one passenger younger than 20 years

7. Minimum age of 17 years for full licensure.

These requirements are recommended by AAA and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

It found that more than 300 deaths and over 21,000 injuries could have been prevented if the states had better GDL programs.

With all of this evidence that the programs work, why do so few states require all of the recommended components in their GDL program? It seems so simple: tighten restrictions on new drivers, save their lives. I feel the problem is that people don’t understand that there is a problem, there for, they aren’t interested in the solution.

Many parents are unaware of the dangers of teen driving, or if they are aware, they think their child is different. Then you have law makers who don’t want to enact laws that they themselves don’t abide by (proof by the New York legislature voting down seat belt legislation because many of them don’t wear seat belts). On top of all of that you have citizens who are wary of laws and government controls and others with the inaccurate idea that driving is a right, there for, it cannot be restricted… try that one when you are pulled over for driving drunk and see how it goes.

In order to save lives by getting more states to fully enact GDL and more importantly to increase their drivers training to include more than just the rules of the road and basic car operation we need to inform people of the problem that exists. If people understood that there was a problem and if they understood the solution we’d be more likely to do something about it.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Does green mean go?

Posted by lapearce on August 11, 2009

We’ve all heard this saying before… typically as we yell it at other drivers who don’t get on the gas when the light turns green fast enough. But does green really mean go? Sure it sounds nice with its alliteration and quick to the point wording, but it unfortunately is not accurate. While not as piffy or repeatable, green actually means look and proceed with caution.

Too often do I see people who hit the gas at a green light with their eyes focused straight ahead. What if someone was running that light? They wouldn’t know until after they were hit. About two years ago I witnessed a red light crash where the truck in front of me ran a very red light at an intersection for a very busy freeway off ramp. She was so late in entering the intersection that she hit the third and fourth car in the line. I honked, which was the only thing that prevented another car from being involved (the driver thanked me for warning her) but the two cars involved didn’t even see her coming. They felt the intersection was safe, after all, other cars had already passed through, who could run a light that late?

Actually, a lot of people do. The National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running claims that 900 people were killed in 2007 because someone ran a red light. How many of those crashes could have been avoided if instead of going when the light turned green people looked first? Of course, all of them could have been avoided if people actually paid attention, slowed down and stopped at red lights. But remember: you aren’t everyone on the road. Common sense to you isn’t common sense to everyone.

When I witnessed the red light crash the woman who ran the red started to stop, but then instead got on the gas. She hit the brakes again just before hitting the cars. Maybe she was drunk or on drugs. Maybe she saw the light at the next intersection and thought she had the green. Maybe she was just a bad driver. There are a lot of bad drivers out there. Never assume that other drivers will obey the laws. If you are hit by a red light runner they are at fault… but wouldn’t you rather see them first, stop, and not be involved in the crash in the first place?

Here is a compilation of red light crashes/close calls that I recently found. Some of them are comical (I did laugh when the two white Ford Explorers hit and one of them tipped over and the near miss at 3:12 is incredibly lucky) but others are frightening and very serious. You will notice just how red some of the lights are when the people run them. Crashes like these happen every day. To avoid being involved in a crash like this remember: green does not mean go, it means look and proceed with caution.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Texting while driving is worse than drinking and driving.

Posted by lapearce on July 13, 2009

Car & Drivers texting vs. drunk driving results

Car & Driver's texting vs. drunk driving stop distance results

One of my fellow driving instructors, Steve, was driving to work last week when he saw a Ford Expedition that was having trouble maintaining his lane. He looked over and saw the woman driving the SUV was texting. His carpool passengers watched her as Steve drove and noticed that sometimes she would drive for a full 20 seconds without looking up.

Steve looked ahead and saw that traffic had come to a stop. He looked over again and saw that the woman was still looking down. He announced, “She’s going to hit someone” and slowed down so that someone wouldn’t be him. What happened next he still can’t believe he witnessed.

She came up on the stopped traffic going about 50mph. She looked up just feet before hitting an SUV in front of her. She tried to brake but by then it was too late. Steve dialed 911 before the crash even happened in order to report the inevitable. He then stopped to check on the drivers. The woman’s airbags had deployed and the entire front of her SUV was destroyed. He went up to her window and asked if she was alright. Her response was:

I don’t know what happened.

Distractions are dangerous. I think people know that even as they willingly take part in these distractions. They just feel it won’t happen to them, or they are a better driver and are able to overcome what others can’t. You just can’t get away from the cold, hard facts about texting while driving, however, it is more dangerous than driving drunk.

The Transport Research Labratory in the U.K. found that texting reduces reaction time by 35 percent, compared to 12 percent for drinking and driving. Scarier still, the study found that steering ability decreased 95 percent while texting. So not only do you have a third less time to react to what is happening on the road, you have nearly no ability to avoid any emergency.

Car and Driver also recently did a study on how texting and driving compares to drunk driving and found the same results. In one test, one of the drivers went nearly 300 feet longer before braking than he did while driving drunk. That is the difference of a football field! Would you blindfold yourself and run the length of a football field with other people and objects on the field for you to hit? Probably not, that could be painful, and yet drivers do this every time they text message while driving.

Even with this information, 60 percent of teens admit to texting while driving.

So how can we help? Bans only work if they are enforced and no one wants their child to learn the hard way with a crash. I would look to enroll your child in a defensive driving school that goes over the dangers of distractions. In our class we have kids master a slalom, then once they are confident in their skills, we have them do it again while trying to pick up an object meant to be their cell phone. Then we have them run through it again with them pretending to talk on their cell phone.

The results are amazing. Cones go everywhere, parents step way back, and some of the teens come to a complete stop in the “road” because they are so distracted. We don’t do this with them texting, because it would be impossible to go between cones while doing so, and after trying to do the course with a cell phone to their ear, the teens recognize that.

Yesterday I had one student say, “Being on a cell phone is more dangerous than I thought!” and another said she realized now just how much she had to pay attention to while driving, and the thought of adding distraction was too scary to imagine.

If you don’t have access to a car control clinic I recommend getting some cones and going to an empty and open parking lot. Create a course and help your child drive through it. Once they’ve mastered it, have them do it again pretending to be on their phone. Ride with them as you do this so if they accidently hit the gas (it can happen) you can quickly gain control. They’ll see the difference, and so will you.

Posted in advice, Studies | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

NSC unveils “Death by Cellphone” billboards in Florida

Posted by lapearce on July 7, 2009

2,600 people a year are killed on the roads because of cell phone use. The National Safety Council has taken the stories of two of these people: Linda, a 61-year-old wife, mother and grandmother from Oklahoma, and Joe, a 12-year-old boy from Michigan to drive this point home in Florida.

Florida currently has no ban what so ever on cell phone use or text messaging. Cell phone use increases the chance of a crash four times, and texting has been shown to be more dangerous than driving and driving. But bans are in their infancy and most drivers admit that they do talk while they drive, even if they are aware of the consequences.

NSC hopes that their billboards about cell phone use, which will be seen by an estimated 56,000 people a day, will help inform Florida drivers of the risks. Of course, ironically, billboards are also huge distractions for drivers. So by spreading their message they are also taking the drivers eyes and attention off the road, potentially resulting in crashes. But I guess you can’t win them all.

Florida Press-News article on the billboards.

There are things that you as a driver can do to help ensure that you are not in a crash because of a distracted driver as well. The most obvious way is to not be distracted yourself. But not being distracted is only one part of the equation, you also need to be aware of your surroundings. In my opinion, a driver who stares straight a head and never looks in any other direction is just as dangerous as a driver on his/her cell phone. If you ever said or thought “that came out of nowhere!” then you probably weren’t paying enough attention while driving.

If you are aware of your surroundings you will have a better chance of seeing the distracted driver before they hit you. You can do this by lifting your eyes up, above the center of your windshield and looking several cars a head of you. You also need to check your mirrors often.

Many people feel that their mirrors are only to be used while changing lanes, in reality, you should be looking at them every few seconds in order to stay aware of your surroundings. It also helps if they are adjusted properly. There are no blind spots on a car if your mirrors are adjusted right. You may think it is witch craft but I’ve adjusted the mirrors on hundreds of cars for hundreds of students and I have yet to find a blind spot. Give it a shot. There’s no reason to see the side of your car anyways, it’s going the same place the front of the car is.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »